'Israel can't hold vote on stolen land'

Syrian sources Israel c

There was no official Syrian response to a Knesset vote that paved the way to continue legislative work on a bill that would mandate national referenda before any territorial compromise was made in the Golan or Jerusalem, but sources in Damascus said that the law reflected the "extreme tendencies of the Israeli parliament." The bill was approved by an overwhelming majority of 68 to 22. The Syrian sources told the BBC-Arabic radio station that "Israel has already annexed the Golan Heights after conquering the area and as far as we are concerned [the referendum law] makes no difference; every action that Israel would take in the Golan Heights is illegitimate. "Israel cannot hold a referendum on land that it does not own," the sources said. Also speaking on the controversial issue was Tzipi Livni, who said during a Hebrew University appearance late Wednesday that "Elections are the only possible referendum ... leaders must be voted into office based on a certain world view which they must then implement." "I think it's wrong … to sterilize the whole purpose of decision-making and transfer it all to the public," said Livni. "[Israel's] leaders must make decisions without trying to make it easier by saying 'it is not we who are against this, it's the public,'" she said, adding that the whole world would stand behind Israel if the country's leaders played their cards right. "He who cannot give up Migron, will lose Gush Etzyon," she concluded. Yehuda Harel, a resident of Kibbutz Merom Golan near the Syrian-Israeli border, told Israel Radio that the people living in the Golan "continue as usual" and would do so even without the referendum law. Harel, an activist and one of the heads of the "Israel is with the Golan" campaign from the 1990s, is one of the founding members of the kibbutz, which was established on June 14 1967. Merom Golan is one of the Israeli communities nearest the border and is only five kilometers west of the Syrian town of Kuneitra. "The law signifies the consensus over the Heights. We are calm and unworried," Harel said. He added that in his opinion, Israelis would not change their mind regarding the Golan Heights even if negotiations with Syria would proceed and reach an advanced point. "Polls, people we meet and the amount of people who come to live here prove that the Heights are a part of Israel," he said. Harel also said that news reports concerning the Golan Heights have no influence on the residents' day-to-day lives and "have no basis in reality. It's like the weather, it changes every few months but has no influence over us." He said Syria would one day forgo its demands and "as it has recognized that the Alexandretta is Turkish and pulled its forces out of Lebanon, it will recognize the Golan [is Israeli]." He rejected a notion of returning the land to Syria but leasing the territory from Damascus for a long term in any future peace deal, saying "we will not rent the Golan from any foreign party." "If a referendum will be held we have no doubt what the results would be, and since the Syrians too know what the results would be, the sheer legislation of a referendum will prevent the necessity to hold it."